Tag Archives: Kyuss

20 years of WELCOME TO SKY VALLEY

sky valley

Last Saturday I was reminded of the 20th anniversary of Welcome to Sky Valley, the third album of the Palm Desert band Kyuss, and this time it’s made me give it a lot of thought, and listen to it again. I’m not one of those who worships this band as if there isn’t anything better in the world and I’m not looking forward to witnessing a reunion between John Garcia and Josh Homme because I don’t regard it necessary. I don’t criticize Homme for forming QOTSA working hard to rise to stardom, but I do get upset with Garcia for not managing to keep a single project steady for long time. There was a time and a place for Kyuss, and for that reason this band probably achieved the status of underground legend, and if its members decided to split ways, I’m sure there was a good reason for that, so there’s no point in insisting on a reunion. Believe me, I learnt the lesson with GN’R some time ago.

I love Kyuss records though I hate the diehard fans of the band, no offence. In my PERSONAL opinion, they are often too narrow minded musically speaking.

I’d say Welcome to Sky Valley is not my favorite album of the band, however every time I recover it and listen to ‘Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop’, ‘Whitewater’ and ‘Demon Cleaner’  I must surrender and admit it’s a masterpiece. Thinking of the first time I approached it and Blues for the Red Sun in cassette, I reckon the experience was totally mindblowing. Kyuss opened the gates to another musical dimension for me, and I learnt to listen to music in a different way, tasting and enjoying the different instruments, both separately and together, feeling the different vibes and atmospheres created thanks to the changes in rhythm, the guitar effects, and the distortions, and I also discovered my favorite instrument was drums. Kyuss could make me travel in my mind (no acid involved), and I think it didn’t happen again until I discovered Monster Magnet’s Dopes to Infinity.

Moreover, it was the first band that I reckon I felt passionate for which wasn’t mainstream, highlighting the fact that in that day even Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam were popular on a global scale, broadcast on MTV and any radio station. In the past it was more difficult to get acquainted with cult bands, due to the complexity of spreading the word, and getting to discover overseas bands in first place, mainly caused by a period of isolation our country was forced to go through for too many years. Also the fact that not many people around shared the same interest in music as me made things a bit worse. Whatever, the point I really intend to make here is that Kyuss was an unknown band for the majority of people here. I was introduced to the band through my friend Pablo, and he heard of, or better said, read about the band on a magazine, so we didn’t know the actual impact and popularity of the band in the States and abroad. As far as we were concerned they were some sort of gurus, with all the Palm Desert scene, playing in the middle of nowhere, just surrounded by cacti, and enlightened by the creative and magical power of weed…or something like that.

I think the cult towards this band had to do with this mysterious halo they were involved, at least we perceived it as such, and the evocative music combined with wonderful hard guitar riffs.

scott reeder

I was talking about Welcome to Sky Valley, huh? Getting back to it, there’s one more thing. I’d like to give the credit to one of the most remarkable bass players in rock/metal scene, Scott Reeder, who joined Kyuss at this point, but I think he earned by far enough credit to be recognized  as THE bass player in the band. His style, his rough way to play, and his attitude just made it. We always focus on the roles of John Garcia and Josh Homme, comparing them to another rock couples such as Plant and Page, Slash and Axl, or Tyler and Perry, as they’re more remarkable and easy to identify and analyze, and after all, their current bad relationship with suing involved makes us all wonder what happened between them, forgetting the rest of the members in the band and their contributions. I couldn’t affirm which is the main Kyuss drummer though, Bjork or Hernandez, no matter their influence on other musicians after their contribution to the band, however, regardless the fact that Nick Oliveri was there first on the 4 strings, Reeder won his place in rock history.

 

GARCIA: WHAT HAPPENED?

No doubt John Garcia has one of the most powerful and unique voices in stoner-metal rock. His role as the lead singer and frontman of Kyuss created a pattern and meant a huge influence for many bands and musicians. The legacy left by this band is outstanding and meant the foundings of the style.

kyuss band

Unfortunately at some point, like many bands, members decided to split ways, being Josh Homme the most successful thanks to Queens of the Stone Age, a project whose first album saw the light back in 1998 and has been following a rising career up to the stardom. John Garcia though, throughout these years, has been trying luck with different projects, which were never steady nor constant, and characterized by remaining in a more underground (almost nonexistent) scene.

Many people sure think it’s not fair to compare both artists, but as a fan, in an attempt to understand what’s going on with Garcia, it’s difficult not to do so.

Back in the day, Garcia released with Slo Burn one of the most epic ep’s I can remember, Amusing the Amazing. 4 songs of pure energy and rage, proving there was life after Kyuss, and creating great expectations among fans, who were delighted. Slo Burn kept part of the desert essence of Kyuss, but at the same time it was more metal, and very straight to the face. I missed their last show in London for 2-3 weeks, a pity. I’m sure probably I’d be adding it to my fave shows, but fate didn’t want to favor me this time.

Once the project was over, Garcia set up another band he led named Unida. They only released an album, Coping with the Urban Coyote, which was also terrific. I remember back in Spain, when internet was a modem (not modern)  luxury and downloading a song used to take ages, there was a second album rumored which never saw the light, and there were leaked songs circulating, which were pretty good, actually. I never understood what happened. Again, the project didn’t manage to stand for itself, and the band disintegrated.

At the same time, Homme, who had been collaborating with Mark Lanegan among others, finally created QOTSA, a band which has been rising step by step, with no major quality failures except for the weird Era Vulgaris, but lots of changes in the lineup, which didn’t affect the evolution of Homme, who was and still is in control of everything.

Garcia came up to the ring with Hermano, band which released three albums. Only a Suggestion, the debut, was pretty cool, the second, Dare I Say, is expendable and not quite remarkable, and the third, Into the Exam Room wasn’t that bad. And then again, the union failed. Hermano hasn’t officially split, but hiatus has lasted for long time.

garcia

In the last years Garcia has been attempting to try luck by resurrecting his old projects, including Kyuss, under the name of Kyuss Lives, with Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork, which was followed by a lawsuit from Homme and Scott Reeder, for bad use of the trademark. I saw them a couple of times at two festivals, and it was a good exercise of nostalgia, obviously, and the band was tight and solid, but…you know, that wasn’t Kyuss. After this trouble, Vista Chino rose from the ashes of Kyuss Lives as a trio, but frankly speaking, the work sounds repetitive and monotonous, and eventually I’ve finally lost my interest completely.

Last week Unida were confirmed as part of the lineup of a Spanish festival and I just couldn’t believe it. Unida again? WTF? John, man, what the hell is going on?

Trying to be as much respectful as possible, these continuous attempts to succeed through the reunion nostalgic effect are, in my opinion, a way to creep after your legacy in a classless way, and I find this whole decline a bit pathetic. I don’t care whether it’s for the money or the success, I thought Garcia was really taking care of his business, trying to go on with his style avoiding becoming mainstream, but now, I only see a caricature of the powerful leader he used to be, and that makes me really really sad.

John, man, what happened?

* Currently listening to Coping with the Human Coyote

ALBUM OF WEEK 4: …AND THE CIRCUS LEAVES TOWN

circus leaves town

I’ve just discovered that, inexplicably, there isn’t any album by Kyuss commented here up to date. I’d even say it’s unacceptable I had allowed this to happen, thus first of all I’d like to apologize and amend my mistake immediately.

I wouldn’t spend so many cheap words into something meaningless, but Kyuss is one of these bands which back in the day also left a mark on me.

I’m not 100% sure of having explained the way I got acquainted with this band from Palm Desert, so briefly I will give the credit to my friend and also a great artist EvilMrSod, who used to record albums in cassette almost 20 years ago, and he sent me three tapes with one of the holiest (stoner) rock trilogy in my life: Blues for the Red Sun, Welcome to Sky Valley,…And the Circus Leaves Town.  Inevitably Kyuss drove me crazy and managed to earn all my attention, but sadly they broke up too soon.

These guys had something special, a combination of many features which turn them into something genuine, unique. As usual, everybody highlights John Garcia’s powerful voice and the amazing riffs created by wonder boy Josh Homme, but their legacy and future influence over many musicians and rock lovers are beyond them. Drums by both Brant Bjork and Alfredo Hernandez marked a difference, Scott Reeder’s bass lines merging perfectly with drums and guitars, building a heavy and solid body of sound, their style moving from pure heavy metal to progressive rock, the simplicity of some of their compositions facing other complex pieces…

For long time I used to be obsessed with understanding the lyrics, till Ben Ward  said “who the fuck cares about their lyrics when they play awesome?”. That was the end of the discussion. He was right after all. Years later, let’s say lyrics aren’t their strength nor key for their music.

I’m experiencing a kind of stoner revival lately thanks to bands such as Orange Goblin, or my last two discoveries: Baroness and Clutch (finally, after some friends talking wonders for years. This new decade seems to bring back the essential stoner, closer to classic metal, separating from the doom tendency predominating  years ago. Thus, with this thought, first I paid my respects to the great Lullabies to Paralyze, and then I stepped back further to Down on The Upside.

It was just a matter of time Kyuss came to mind, thinking of the impact they had on me back in the day. Musically speaking, they meant the end of the Seattle sound chapter, and the starter for the stoner rock, which lasted several years too, sharing their hegemony with the Scandinavian punk rock bands. It’s overwhelming to think of certain bands as the beginning/end of different musical eras, huh? At the end of the day they also mark stages in life.

Kyuss

With memories and ideas twisting in my head I went straight to the CD shelves and chose my favorite album by Kyuss, which is …And the Circus Leaves Town. Love its title, by the way.  It’s one of my Winter albums. It spreads a scent of coldness and abandon hard to explain, which evokes the dead season.

Whenever I say  it’s their best album, diehard fans react surprised as Blues For The Red Sun is considered the best. Gotta say one of the reasons I got a bit tired of Kyuss has to do with their radical defenders. Narrow minded, too obsessed monothematic. You know what I mean,  for them John Garcia close to be a Messiah. Too boring!

…And The Circus Leaves Town is probably one of their most complete albums, combining trademark killing riffs in One Inch Man, lysergic passages such as in Catamaran or Phototropic, powerful in crescendo tracks such as the amazing Rodeo, those unique Hernandez’s drums in Hurricane or Thee Ol’ Boozeroony

But there’s a song I will never get tired of, which probably reflects the essence Kyuss at its best. It’s the fascinating Spaceship Landing, including a sequence of different parts, plenty of fuzz, riffs and solos, effects in voice, repetition, cymbals… so many details, one time is never enough to discover new things. I can easily imagine these guys playing this song at night in the middle of the desert, enjoying the effects of some heavy weed and perhaps some other downer, just allowing the music flow. So good…

Fate is tough and unpredictable. Josh Homme achieved stardom with QOTSA, Garcia the leader and one of the most charismatic frontmen in the last 20 years is doomed to start and eventually abandon every single project he’s gets involved with, and for some awkward reason, Hernandez plays for minor musicians keeping us deprived of his awesome skills. How come Kyuss was always a band for minorities? Some of the bands inheriting their legacy  however, are quite popular.

Anyway, sometimes it’s necessary to recover some classic albums I have to, and feel really good when I do it, because these records, already to be considered part of my life, bring back lots of past memories. This time it’s been greater, coming with this feeling of the stoner rock more alive than ever. Yeah, I dig!

ALBUM OF WEEK 10 – AMUSING THE AMAZING

I know Amusing the Amazing cannot be considered a proper album, as it only includes four tracks, yet I’ve recovered from the shelf and I’m listening to it with complete pleasure.

Considering last week I chose one of QOTSA’s I’m definitely having a revival of my Stoner days, and yes, both bands are branches of the same mother tree: Kyuss.

Maybe it’s time to talk about Kyuss a bit. I don’t intend to preach on the wonders of the band, but they definitely left a huge mark on me, and many others.

It’ curious though that this is a cult band, totally underground, which never achieved major commercial success, but with the passing of time, were gaining fans all around the world.

I never saw them alive, however I think I’ve seen all their former members playing on stage in different projects, what is out of question is that they all are workaholics and love playing…and I’m grateful for that.

The two main brains here were John Garcia and Josh Homme, and it’s a tale like the way their careers developed once they split ways: Homme leading QOTSA and joining his strength together with Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones with Them Crooked Vultures, and John Garcia trying to find his definite project, away from commercial success and recognition, at a minor level.

People adore Garcia, no matter what he does, who he plays with, he’s a true metal head, and will be till the end of his days. From time he gifts us with projects such as Unida or Hermano, but Slo Burn, man, I reckon this should have been the one.

Amusing the Amazing has these perfect four tracks you can listen one time and another, and another…so heavy and powerful, with strong and consistent drums, guitars with distortion turned to 11, and awesome riffs. Then you listen to John Garcia’s melodies and screams and think “Damn bastard! How can you be so good?”

There’s too much hysteric pose regarding Kyuss, I get sick of fans and forget about the band for some time. I’ve even admitted I get tired of Garcia’s voice, but whenever I listen to this ep, as I’m doing at this very moment, you forget about that crap, he’s a fantastic singer for sure.

I hadn’t listened to Slo Burn for aaages, and it’s funny a friend of mine is passing through identical stage, he’s completely Slo Burnian, and we are commenting every day. There’s not much to comment when there are only four songs, but it’s kind of funny because we are like Beavis and Butt-head:

–          The starting of Prizefighter is amazing

–          Yeah man! Fuckin’ A!

–          I said I Pilot I Pilot

–          I said I Pilot the Duuuuune

–          Huh huh! Cool!

–          He he he he! I got it in vinyl

–          You’re a basterd motherfucker!

–          Huh huh! July is cool, man!

–          Yes, it is! I had drinks with John Garcia once

–          What?? Yo, biiiiitch!

–          Huh huh huh! Cool!

Which is my favorite Slo Burn song? Uhmmm, good question, very few options. For emotional reasons Pilot the Dune would be the chosen one, it was kind of single I guess, and first time I listened to it was like a bomb exploding right in my face. However, as I’m listening the ep among 4-6 times a day (yeah! It’s definitely too short), nowadays my vote goes for July.

So that’s it, this is my album-ep of the week, I strongly recommend it to all rock and riff lovers, don’t think it will disappoint you at all, and in case it does, here you are a wall where you can post your comments open to discussion.

Next week I’ll try to choose something more relaxing, or better said, easy listening, although it’s not going to be easy, I’m too active and beside I’m seeing Electric Wizard on stage next Tuesday. Anyway, I’ll try my best.